AFC ASIAN CUP

Qatar Sports Club Stadium

Referee: Nawaf Shukralla | Attendance: 7000

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Iran

  • Karim Ansarifar 63'

1 - 0

FT

Fard winner sends Iran progress

Iran became the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup after Karim Ansari Fard's second-half goal secured victory over North Korea.

• Ghotbi: Iran made statement
• Duerden: Matchday two review

Ansari Fard converted Pejman Nouri's cross in the 63rd minute to settle what was a largely poor Group D encounter at Qatar Sports Club Stadium as Iran followed up their opening 2-1 triumph over neighbours Iraq with another victory.

There was little in the way of goalmouth action in a dour opening 45 minutes. Jong Tae-Se stung Iran goalkeeper Mahdi Rahmati's hands with a free-kick after 16 minutes, and Ansari Fard had a goal ruled out for handball at the other end before Jong again tested Rahmati as the half drew to a close.

The opening exchanges in the second half also failed to produce any meaningful chances, Mohammad Reza Khalatbari's weak shot that was easily dealt with at his near post by Ri Myong-Guk the only real action before Iran took the lead just after the hour mark.

A throw-in down the left freed Nouri and the midfielder whipped in a low cross towards Ansari Fard which the striker guided first-time past the diving Ri and into the far corner with the outside of his boot to finally break the deadlock.

North Korea showed more attacking desire after falling behind and Hong Yong-jo nearly snatched an injury-time equaliser when the striker managed to lose his marker to collect a low cross, turn and shoot from 12 yards but the ball grazed the top of the crossbar, much to his and his country's disappointment.

  • Ghotbi: Iran made statement

    Coach Afshin Ghotbi believes Iran have laid down a marker to the rest of the

    Asian Cup contenders after a 1-0 victory over North Korea saw them qualify for

    the quarter-finals with a game to spare.

    Following a lacklustre first-half, Karim Ansari Fard's 63rd-minute goal lit up

    an otherwise dour Group D contest at Qatar Sports Club to seal a second

    consecutive triumph for Iran after their opening 2-1 win over neighbours Iraq.

    "Our group was the 'group of death' and I still believe it is the most

    difficult group in the tournament. To achieve this result two games in a row,

    I'm very proud of my players,'' Ghotbi said. "Iran are capable of playing much better football. We will show that in the

    coming games.

    "We will be fitter and more confident and hopefully you'll see much better

    performances from our team. When we came to this tournament it was very important to try to get the job

    done in the first two matches so we could have a longer recovery time for our

    team.

    "I was very satisfied because we had four changes in our team due to the flu

    and that shows that we have quality on the bench and we were able to sustain

    that level of performance.

    "Any time you make changes, it takes time in the game to find the rhythm you

    need. The second factor was that when you play North Korea, you have to be

    patient.

    "In the first half we didn't pass the ball with enough speed and it gives the

    North Koreans the opportunity to get numbers behind the ball. At half-time we talked about how important it was to stretch the game and

    close them down quicker and higher and that changed the tempo of the game.''

    The result leaves North Korea on the brink of elimination with just one point

    from two games in which they have failed to find the back of the net. However, coach Jo Tong Sop insisted he would not change his side's

    counter-attacking style in pursuit of goals and the victory they need over Iraq

    in their final game to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the last eight.

    "Of course we have only one point, so the next match is very critical for our

    team to go for the knockout stage but we will try our best to win the match so

    that we can proceed to the next round,'' he said. "In terms of the system, we converted to 4-4-2 and we combine attack and

    defence and in this way we created new tactics for our team.

    "For the next match, I think we have to again put the emphasis on defence and

    try to score goals on the counter-attack.''